Last edited 30 Jan 2015

Community right to reclaim land

In England, in 1800, just 10% of the population lived in towns and cities, now the figure is 90%. England is the third most densely populated major country in the world, and our population is projected to increase from 52 million in 2010 to 62 million in 2035 (ref ONS: Population Projections). In 2011, a report from the Institute of Public Policy Research warned of a housing black hole, suggesting that there would be a shortfall of 750,000 homes by 2025. (Ref IPPR: England faces 750,000 housing gap by 2025).

The government owns over £330 billion of land and property. It is estimated that central and local government hold around 40% of developable sites and around 27% of brownfield land (land which is, or was, occupied by a permanent structure) that are suitable for housing.

The Community Right to Reclaim Land was introduced in February 2011. It is similar to the earlier Public Request Ordering Disposal (PROD). The Community Right to Reclaim Land gives communities the right to ask that under-used or unused land owned by public bodies is brought back into use. This includes local authorities and other public bodies such as the Environment Agency, the BBC or the British Transport police. A list of relevant public bodies can be found in Schedule 16 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act.

Requests can be sent to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government where:

  • Land or property is under-used or vacant.
  • That there are no plans in place for the land or property.
  • Disposal would enable the land or property to be brought back into use.

If the Secretary of State decides the request is valid, they can issue a disposal notice that requires the public body to dispose of the land, normally on the open market.

NB On 8 January 2014, the Right to Contest, extended this to allow businesses, local authorities and members of the public to challenge the government to sell sites owned by a central government department or one of their arms’ length bodies. This is intended to facilitate development of publicly-owned sites to boost local growth and to contribute to paying down the deficit.

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